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British Airways luggage allowance explained: how to maximise your cabin baggage allowance

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

Does it feel like forever since you were last on a plane? With the UK government regularly adding new destinations to the green list and scrapping quarantine for double vaccinated passengers from amber countries, travel may be more of a reality in the coming months. Time for a refresher of airline luggage policies. In this article, we walk you through all you need to know about British Airways’s luggage allowance policy and how to make the most of what you’re allowed to bring on board.

Note: There are still many travel restrictions in place and things can change fast. Make sure to get the latest in our up-to-date travel brief for the UK before booking any trip. And for the latest guidance, check Skyscanner’s Coronavirus Travel AdviceFCDO foreign travel advice and local government advice for the country you’re planning to visit.

What is British Airways’ hand baggage allowance?

British Airways baggage allowance lets you carry a laptop bag on board

British Airways’ rules when it comes to hand baggage allowance are more or less the same regardless of whether you’re travelling economy or business. The amount of hold luggage drastically changes, however, based on your ticket. Here’s what you’re allowed to bring on board:

  • 1 cabin bag, max. 23kg (51lbs), up to 56 x 45 x 25cm (22 x 18 x 10in)
  • 1 handbag or laptop bag, max. 23kg (51lbs), up to 40 x 30 x 15cm (16 x 12 x 6in)
  • If you’re travelling with children, you’re also allowed two of these items per child, for no extra charge: a fully collapsible pushchair, a car or booster seat, a travel cot and a baby back carrier.

What is British Airways’ checked luggage allowance?

Checked luggage rules vary based on the type of your BA ticket

It all depends on the route you’re flying and what ticket type you’ve purchased. British Airways offers free checked baggage on most flights from the UK, but there are different ‘classes’ of travellers and in some cases, you will need to pay extra for checked bags. It’s worth doing this before you get to the BA check in, as fees can double if you pay at the airport. Here’s a summary of British Airways’ baggage allowance rules:

  • Economy with no checked bag (Euro Traveller or World Traveller basic) tickets: Depending on your destination and departure airport, you’ll pay between £30 and £60 online in advance per checked bag, and £75 per bag at the airport
  • In general, hold luggage can be no bigger than 90x75x43cm in size
  • All other flight types, including Economy with checked bag (Euro Traveller or World Traveller plus) tickets, Business/Club tickets and First Class tickets come with an allowance for at least one, sometimes several, free checked bags
  • Economy tickets with checked bag (Euro Traveller plus) allows a cabin bag, a laptop or handbag on board, plus one checked bag weighing 23kg
  • World Traveller Plus and Club Europe tickets offers a cabin bag, a laptop or handbag on board, plus two checked bags
  • Club World and First Class travellers can get three bags weighing 32kg each for free, depending on where you’re flying to and from
  • To check your allowance or fees, log in to your booking on the BA website or type in the details of the BA flight and ticket type you’re interested in, to see what would apply in your case.

How can I make the most of the British Airways hand luggage allowance?

Like this woman at the airport there are ways to make the most out of your British Airways baggage allowance

If you’re determined to travel light, read on for our top tips on getting all of your luggage on board:

1. Measure your hand luggage bags

All airlines have slightly different luggage restrictions so always measure your hand luggage bags well before flying, especially when travelling with an airline for the first time. If your cabin bag is bigger than 56 x 45 x 25cm (22 x 18 x 10in), you will have to check it in. Remember, British Airways’ baggage allowance includes handles and wheels, so don’t get caught out by that awkward baggage gauge at the last minute. If you’re in danger of exceeding the limitations, look for a new cabin bag. Most luggage stores now make it easy to find ‘cabin-approved’ rucksacks and suitcases.

2. Weigh your hand luggage and checked bags

If your cabin bag is heavier than 23kg (51lbs), you will also have to check it in. And if your ticket doesn’t allow for more free checked baggage allowance, you’ll have to pay a heavy bag charge which amounts to £65 (€75) per overweight bag and one-way journey. Note that this weight limit is per bag and can’t be split between multiple bags. However, if your journey includes a connecting flight with another airline, their allowances may be different (check our FAQ section for more).

Here’s everything you need to know about avoiding excess baggage fees at the airport.

3. Shop around for a deal

British Airways is not a budget airline and has an impressive range of airfare grades, meaning you don’t have to struggle with the zip on your tiny suitcase. Even what the airline terms ‘Economy’ class includes a lot more than the seat, with snacks, drinks and family-friendly extras. On short-haul BA flights, Economy comes with three options: Basic, Plus and Plus Flex (Europe Traveller). While Basic is the ‘hand luggage only’ option you may be looking for, Plus comes with free checked baggage and Plus Flex allows you flexibility if your schedule changes. Alternatively, British Airways Premium Economy (World Traveller and World Traveller Plus) is available on some international flights. This option lends you a little more legroom for your oversized handbag, plus two pieces of hold luggage (23kg each) included in the price.

4. Use those extra centimetres

The BA hand luggage allowance is actually 16cm x 25cm bigger than Ryanair’s maximum dimensions for cabin baggage. So that’s a whole more space you can make the most of. Sure, you might have paid a little more for a British Airways flight. But that gives you a valuable bit of room for those little luxuries you thought you couldn’t squeeze in, whether that’s your favourite perfume or slipper socks for the journey.

If you want more ways to up your comfort levels when flying, check out our guide on how to make economy feel like first class.

5. Join the Club

While British Airways’ Club Europe and Club World tickets may sound like you have to be an international jet-setter and criss-cross the Atlantic several times a week to join, membership is actually free. Registering will put you in the basic ‘Blue’ Tier, in which you’ll automatically start collecting Avios (the airline’s version of reward points) on flight purchases as well as member offers and the chance to rack up Tier points in order to progress to the next level. Make it to the Bronze Tier (300 Tier points on BA and partner flights) and you’ll start getting perks like priority check-in and boarding, as well as being able to select a seat a whole week before you fly. Silver Tier (600 points) comes with extra luggage allowance among other things, while the Gold Tier (1,500 points) pretty much guarantees you a First class experience, complete with exclusive lounges and bonus rewards. You don’t even need to be a British Airways frequent flyer to start earning points.

6. Fly with another airline

Not many airlines can match the BA baggage allowance. Even big names like Air France (55x35x25cm, 12-18kg combined weight) and KLM (55x35x25cm, 12kg combined weight) stipulate a slightly smaller hand luggage size. But if you have heavier items, like an SLR camera or sports equipment to transport, consider companies like Delta (56x35x23cm) which has no weight restrictions on hand luggage apart from at selected airports.

For a full round-up of cabin bag restrictions across major airlines, see our comparison table.

British Airways baggage allowance FAQs

Man on board a plane checks his back
Do medical supplies and equipment count towards the British Airways baggage allowance?

No. But while there aren’t any weight limits or overweight charges for medical equipment, there is a limit to the number of checked bags for medication or medical supplies. You’ll also need to have an official medical letter with you when you check in at the airport.

What is my British Airways baggage allowance if I travel with a stopover or connecting flight?

Your allowance in this case is determined by the airline operating the longest flight.

Do my gifts and duty free shopping count towards my hand luggage allowance?

Yes. But if they take you over the hand baggage allowance, your extra bags may be checked into the hold as long as you have a free checked baggage allowance.

Can I bring musical instruments or sports equipment on British Airways flights?

Yes, i if they fit the cabin size restrictions. For bigger and heavier items, you need to contact British Airways beforehand and they will try to accommodate them as cargo (extra fees may apply).

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